Getting Creative in Quarantine

Need something to keep you busy during all this hockey-less downtime? Logan’s got a recommendation for you.

A lot of things have changed in the Stark household since the NHL hit “pause” on the 2019-20 season one month ago. There’s no hockey for me to cover on Twitter and in articles for SB Nation. My billet kids from the local WHL team have gone home much earlier than planned thanks to the cancellation of the remainder of their season and the playoffs. (Though they did win the league regular-season title. Silver lining?) I haven’t gone to a coffee shop in what feels like ages to work on my novels. And I now have a frankly mind-boggling amount of time to fill.

One thing that hasn’t changed is what I do to destress. Crocheting. No, it’s not just your grandmother’s hobby. My closest friends (ranging in age from earlier twenties to late thirties) all crochet or knit and we regularly share patterns, pictures of projects in progress, and gift one another our creations. It’s a great hobby to pick up if you are looking for something productive to do at the end of the day, but still want to watch a few episodes of your favorite show. Instead of mindlessly binge-watching that show on Netflix, now you can binge-watch with something to show for it!

I’ve crocheted a lot of patterns over the years, but my favorite has to be the simple yet beautiful solid granny square. It’s a great pattern to start with for beginners and I highly recommend Bella Coco’s tutorial on YouTube. She posts video tutorials of all manner of crochet projects, which prove infinitely helpful for deciphering the code of written crochet patterns.

The reason I love the solid granny square is that it works up quickly into a sizable block. You can crochet a stack of them within a few episodes of your favorite show or movie. And their structure is easy to work with when changing colors or stitching blocks together. This means you can work piecemeal on a project without having a heavy blanket on your lap (especially as we head into the warmer weather of summer). You can crochet all the squares of your project before you stitch a single pair together.

Not sure how to stitch blocks together? Check out Bella Coco’s tutorial for the sturdy ridge stitch. My recommendation is to stitch the blocks with the front sides facing one another so that the ridge is on the back of the blanket. It gives a neat contour to the blanket while keeping the front side flat and focused on the colors and patterns, not the lines between the squares.

If you’ve been following my Twitter this hockey season, you’ll know I’ve been crocheting blankets for every player on my local WHL hockey team. I just finished my 10th blanket the week the season was paused. Thankfully, I crocheted blankets for all the 20-year-olds and drafted players first (sorry, rookies, you’re next on the list). Just because there’s no hockey doesn’t mean I’ve stopped crocheting. I’m still hard at work on blankets for the other 13 players on the team and can’t wait to hand out the stack at training camp later this year. I’ve picked out some eye-popping color combinations for the next batch of blankets and my fingers are itching to grab my hook and start in on the squares.

I’ve also spent this past month working on projects that were laid aside when I started on the harebrained (but very fun) idea of crocheting 23 blankets for a hockey team. I finished up a long overdue Christmas present (sorry, bestie, love you), I’m almost done with this African flowers blanket, and this 12-point star centerpiece is nearly done.

Want to make your own giant blanket like the ones I’ve made?

Here’s the details on them:
  — Yarn: Paintbox Yarns in Simply Chunky
  — Hook Size: 6mm (J-10)
  — Squares: Five rounds in chosen color, sixth round in border color
  — Layout: Eight rows of four squares each (32 total squares)
  — Border: One round of border around each square, two rounds of border around
     whole blanket once stitched together
  — Yarn Needed: 15 balls (one ball of main color per row, seven balls of border color)
    — NB: For the blanket in all blues pictured above, I used two balls of each
     blue color, and seven balls of the grey border color for a total of 15. I always
     recommend ordering one extra ball of your border color.
  — Accessories: Scissors, darning needle (for sewing in tied off ends of yarn)
  — Time: ~20 hours (it goes quickly)
  — Finished Size: Just shy of 7.5 feet (2.28 meters)

For a blanket in Dallas Stars colors, I recommend two rows each of victory green (known as “kelly green” outside of hockey), pure white, pure black, and a muted gold (it’s a great callback to the old Stars jerseys).

You can make blankets out of so many patterns, like some of the examples in my tweet below. Hexagons, diamonds, sunburst granny squares, and granny stripes all work up quickly into a sizable lap blanket or full-sized blanket.

Want to try your hand at some of the other projects pictured in my tweets? Check out the tutorials for the solid hexagon, granny stripe, 12-point star, and African flower.

Last year, I used the granny stripe pattern to crochet a wins/losses blanket for my favorite baseball team. I’m pretty sure I jinxed their postseason chances by doing it, but it was a lot of fun! The pattern is very simple and the principle of the blanket is a cinch to memorize. Using the four main colors of your team, assign one to home wins, another to home losses, another to road wins, and the final color to road losses. Crochet one line per game in the correct color based on the final score. If you’re doing this for baseball, keep in mind that you’ll have 162 (hopefully more thanks to the postseason) rows by the end of the regular season. I used a medium-sized yarn last year and the blanket ended up over nine feet long. The blanket looks gorgeous draped over the foot of the bed and is the perfect size for three or four people to use as a lap blanket when we sit around my fire pit on the back deck.

Need another reason to pick up crocheting? Studies have shown that crocheting (and knitting) have proven beneficial for your whole body, by lowering blood pressure, relieving depression and anxiety, reducing irritability and that pesky feeling of restlessness, quieting your mind before bed, and coping with the grieving process.

There are literally thousands of project ideas, patterns, and color combinations to choose from when working with yarn. The possibilities are endless with what you can create. And you can gift your projects to friends and family, or to local resource centers for vulnerable youth, minorities, the elderly, and your local VA.

Share your projects with me on Twitter or hit me up for yarn recommendations and questions.

(And don’t forget to do your part to #StayHome by ordering everything for your project online.)